I had a personal request from a lovely and dear friend to post this recipe, and of course I jumped for joy at the chance to show off one of my best recipes (and to prove someone's reading my blog that I know in the real world!). Maybe Nadia will give me permission to post her pumpkin chipotle chili recipe in exchange. We can make each other locally world-famous. :)
One of the foods I loved most at Cosmic Cafe (you'll hear more about it tomorrow) was the Buddha's Feast, which featured a samosa, a bowl of dhal, and a side of curried veggies of the day, over perfectly cooked basmati rice. It was quite possibly the perfect meal. I decided to conquer the elements of the dish--the samosas from Vegan With a Vengeance are excellent (although I want to try them with Alton Brown's pasty dough next time, just to see if there's a difference), and I can curry a veggie with the best of them. I also found a fantastic fragrant basmati recipe or two. The last hurdle was the Dhal itself.
Careful combing of internet forums, cookbooks, and my own experience yielded this recipe which, if I may say so, is so awesome it'll make you forget all others. I can't take full credit for it, I simply synthesized several recipes and matched them up to the ingredients I had on hand. But the result...oh, the result. Thick and aromatic, hearty yet not heavy, spicy yet not overspiced...I love the way Indian dishes layer the spice flavors over each other to achieve a perfect gustatory gestalt.
Anyway, here's the recipe...it serves at least six.
Red Lentil Dhal of Doom
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
5 whole cloves
4 whole cardamom pods
1 dried red chili, seeds removed, minced
(or one minced jalepeno without seeds)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon grated ginger (I buy minced ginger in a jar--it's way easier to deal with and lasts in the fridge for months.)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 cup red lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 cups vegetable broth (for the love of god don't use canned--get a good boxed variety like Pacific. A non-chicken would be good.)
5 plum tomatoes, chopped, or 1 can of diced plum tomatoes
1 cup lightly packed chopped cilantro
Juice of one lime
Making the Spice Blend:
1 - Toast the seed blend over medium low heat for five minutes, stirring constantly. Keep a lid nearby for when the mustard seeds start popping, or you could put someone's eye out, seriously. When they start to get golden brown and fragrant, remove from the heat. Whatever you do, don't put the chili pepper in the pan, or you'll mace yourself. If you're using a fresh jalepeno instead of dried, add it in step 3 when you saute the other aromatics.
2 - Let cool completely before adding the dried chili and cinnamon and grinding to a fine powder. An electric grinder is best for this, but you can also have a lot of fun pissing off your neighbors by dumping everything in a thick Ziploc bag and pounding the shit out of it with a hammer.
3 - Saute onion in oil for five minutes. Add the garlic/ginger and cook five minutes more. Dump in the spices and salt, cook five more minutes. By now your kitchen should smell like heaven, or at least like God's favorite Indian restaurant.
3 - Add the broth to deglaze the pan, scraping a bit to unstick any little bits of onion garlic spice goodness. Add the tomato paste and lentils. Bring to a boil and simmer 20 minutes.
4 - Add the tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, and more water if needed. Simmer 10 more minutes, season with salt and black pepper to taste, and then serve warm with naan or pita bread, and over fragrant basmati rice.
As with most soups this dhal's flavor improves the next day, and it can be frozen quite easily for a couple of months in an airtight container.
Tomorrow: Austin's veg restaurants - the good, the bad, and the extinct.